The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 9:9-13

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 23, 2013

Mat 9:9  And when Jesus passed on from thence, he saw a man sitting in the custom house, named Matthew; and he saith to him: Follow me. And he arose up and followed him.

And when, Jesus passed on. This part contains the following grades of faith and unbelief: 1. The publicans and the Pharisees, vv. 9–13; 2. the disciples of Jesus and the disciples of John, vv. 14–17; 3. The Jewish ruler and the Gentile woman, vv. 18–26; 4. the common people and the Pharisees, vv. 27–34.

1. The Publicans and the Pharisees. We have to consider: a. the call of St. Matthew; b. the feast. a. The call of Matthew is told by the three synoptists after the cure of the paralytic. The Greek verb rendered “passed on from thence” properly means “passed by,” so that Jesus is represented as passing by the office in which Matthew was collecting the customs for the Romans. It must have been situated near the seashore or at the city gate, where most of the exports and imports naturally passed. The meaning of the name Matthew and his identity with Levi of Mark and Luke have been considered in the Introduction. The Romans let out their public revenues to wealthy revenue-farmers, who collected the dues by a number of underlings. They were very hateful to the Jews, both because they were considered as assisting the hated Roman dominion, and because the Jews believed that the Roman taxes had been imposed against the Mosaic law. Capharnaum, being situated on the border of Galilee and at the same time on the highway between Damascus and Ptolemais, must have numbered many such tax-gatherers or publicans. As Jesus had lived for some time in the city and had worked there numerous miracles, his fame must have reached the class of people with whom Matthew was familiar [cf. Coleridge, v. p. 81 f.]. But the ready obedience of Matthew is partially due to the great personal charm of our Lord, whose invitations could not be resisted [cf. Jerome]. By calling Matthew to the apostolate, Jesus showed that he not only came to destroy sin, but also to console and elevate sinners [Peter Chrysologus, Paschasius, Jansenius]. On the other hand, the ready obedience of the publican has ever been a brilliant example of faithfulness to grace.

Mat 9:10  And it came to pass as he was sitting at meat in the house, behold many publicans and sinners came, and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.
Mat 9:11  And the Pharisees seeing it, said to his disciples: Why doth your master eat with publicans and sinners?
Mat 9:12  But Jesus hearing it, said: They that are in health need not a physician, but they that are ill.
Mat 9:13  Go then and learn what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice. For I am not come to call the just, but sinners.

And it came to pass. b. The feast. Both Mark and Luke state by whom the feast was given; the house must therefore have been that of Matthew [Augustine], though Weiss contends that Matthew had become a disciple of our Lord, and had therefore left his house with Jesus. Maldonado, and Barradas have already observed that Matthew was called at the custom-house, and that the latter was probably distinct from the dwelling-house. The original text reads, “as he was reclining at meat,” according to the manner of eating adopted by the Jewish exiles from the Persians. The publicans are placed on a level with the sinners on account of their frequent acts of injustice to which their condition of life exposed them [Lk. 3:13; 19:7]. There is no need of explaining “sinners” as meaning Gentiles. It must have been at the invitation of Matthew that his former companions approached in so large numbers to the sacred person of our Lord; the convert is always eager to make his friends share the blessings of his new mode of life. In Eastern countries the banquet-hall is at times thrown open to all that desire to benefit by the conversation of the guests, or wish to enter for any other reason; this may explain the presence of the Pharisees who were certainly not sharers of the feast. These Pharisees address the disciples, who were less likely to defend themselves against the charges of their reputed superiors. The Rabbinic doctrine that the society of sinners is not suited for a teacher may be seen in Wünsche, p. 123. The Pharisees did not reflect that if their doctrine were carried out in practice, all social intercourse would be destroyed, since no one is free from sin. Jesus makes the Pharisees’ attack the occasion of a most consoling doctrine: he grants the objection of the Pharisees in so far as one may grant the charge against a physician that he communes with the sick. In the following clause he first proves that such a manner of living is strictly in accord with the will of God, appealing to Hosea 6:6; he then shows that he is in regard to moral diseases what the physician is with regard to diseases of the body, being come to call sinners. The introductory words “go then and learn” is a common Rabbinic form inviting the hearer to ponder over a certain subject [Schöttgen, p. 94]. The negative phrases “not sacrifice” and “not come to call the just” may be explained either relatively or absolutely. Jansenius, Lapide, Bisping, etc. understand them relatively, so that God expresses his preference for mercy above sacrifices [cf. Chrysostom, Euthymius, Augustine]. It is clear that the prophet could not have excluded the Levitical sacrifices absolutely; but the Hebrew idiom admits of a formal negation in order to emphasize the affirmation without really excluding the denied object [Maldonado, Schegg, etc.]. According to this view, our Lord tells his hearers that the Levitical sacrifices without the proper sentiments of mercy and charity are of no value before God; thus the necessity of mercy is insisted on and nothing is directly stated about the Levitical sacrifices. The same principle must be applied to the second negative clause, “not come to call the just.” Maldonado explains the phrase relatively, as meaning that our Lord came to save sinners rather than the just, so much so that if there were any just, he would not come for their sakes; Chrysostom, Paschasius, Thomas Aquinas, Cajetan, etc. [Rom. 3:23] take the words absolutely, so that our Lord declares that there is no man who did not need his office as Saviour; Chrysostom takes the words figuratively, seeing in them the ironical statement that there is no just man on earth. Hilary, Peter Chrysologus, Bede, Paschasius, Bruno, Thomas Aquinas Lam., explain the words as meaning that our Lord did not come to save those that claim to be just, though the gospel abounds with instances in which Jesus endeavored to convert even the hypocritical Pharisees. His very mercy towards sinners was another proof that he fulfilled the prophetic description of the Messias [cf. Is. 42:3; 49:5; 50:4; 53:6, 11; 61:1; Ez. 34:16]. As to the question whether the Word would have become incarnate if Adam had not sinned, Maldonado infers a negative answer from the present passage, while Suarez [De incarn. disp. 5, sect. 4, nn. 26, 27, 30] rejects such an inference.

One Response to “Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 9:9-13”

  1. […] Father Maas’ Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matt 9:9-13). […]

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